Notice of Proposed Rulemaking re: Winemaking Terms

12/03/2010


On November 3, 2010, TTB issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding use of winemaking terms on wine labels and advertisements. Specifically, TTB discusses the use of terms such as “ESTATE GROWN”, “VINTNER GROWN”, “PROPRIETOR GROWN”, “SINGLE VINEYARD”, “ORCHARD” AND “FARM”.

The Federal wine labeling regulations currently define the term “Estate Bottled” and restrict use of this term on labels to wines that are labeled with a viticultural area appellation of origin and (1) the winery is located in the identified viticultural area, (2) all grapes used to make the wine were grown on land owned or controlled by the winery within the boundaries of the viticultural area, and (3) the entire winemaking process, including crushing the grapes, fermenting, finishing, aging and bottling occurred within a continuous process at the winery premises. There are several other winemaking terms that are yet undefined in the Federal regulations, and in this notice TTB proposes to amend the regulations to include definitions of these terms.

“Estate Grown”
For twenty years, although not codified, TTB has allowed the term Estate Grown to be used as a synonym for Estate Bottled. Recently industry members sought to use the term on wines that do not meet the “Estate Bottled” standards contending that Estate Grown does not convey information about bottling and should therefore not need to satisfy the same requirements. TTB is considering amending the wine labeling regulations to include definitions for “Estate”, “Estates”, and “Estate Grown” and to set forth its position on use of these terms.

TTB is seeking comments specifically (1) whether the use if the term “estate” or “estates” conveys specific information about a wine and what information it conveys? (2) Whether TTB should propose to define the term “Estate” used separately from the expression “Estate Bottled”? (3) Whether the appearance of the terms “Estate” or “Estates” on a wine label lead consumers to believe the product is “Estate Bottled”? (4) Whether use of the terms “Estate” or “Estates” on the wine label lead consumers to believe the product was produced primarily from ingredients grown on the named estate even when not indicated as “Estate Bottled”? (5) Whether TTB should propose a new standard for use of the term “estate” or “estates” and if so what should it be? (6) Whether TTB should amend the regulations to reflect its current policy that the terms “Estate Grown” may only be used on wines meeting the “Estate Bottled” standards? (7) Whether TTB should create a different standard for use of the term “Estate Grown” and what it should be? (8) Whether TTB should continue to permit the use of the terms “Estate(s) Vineyards”, “Vineyard Estate(s)”, or other similar terms when not preceded by the name of the winery when the wine does not meet the “Estate Bottled” requirements? Why or why not? (9) Would the use of the terms in number 8 above lead consumers to believe the wine is “Estate Bottled”? Should TTB establish different standards for use of these terms?

“Proprietor Grown” and “Vintner Grown”
Beginning in 1982 TTB and its predecessor agency permitted use of the terms “Proprietor Grown” and “Vintner Grown” on wine labels and in advertisements provided 100% of the grapes used to make the wine were grown on the vineyards owned or controlled by the bottling vineyard. TTB is proposing to amend the wine labeling regulations to include this policy and seeks comments as to the following: (1) whether TTB should continue to permit use of the terms “Proprietor Grown” and “Vintner Grown” on wine labels where the wines meet the requirements described above without any change in the regulations? (2) Whether TTB should amend the labeling regulations to include the standards for use of the terms “Proprietor Grown” and “Vintner Grown” on the labels? (3) Whether TTB should develop another standard for the use of these terms?

“Vineyard”, “Orchard”, “Farm”, “Ranch”, “Single Vineyard” or “Single Orchard”
The next piece of the proposed rulemaking regarding terms used on wine labeling focuses on the terms “Vineyard”, “Orchard”, “Farm”, “Ranch”, “Single Vineyard” or “Single Orchard”. The wine labeling regulations currently permit producers to include the name of the vineyard, orchard, farm or ranch on the label provided 95% of the wine in the bottle was produced from “primary winemaking material grown on the named vineyard, orchard, farm or ranch”, but these terms are not defined in the regulations. TTB has further taken the position that producers could use the term “Single Vineyard” on labels where 100% of the grapes used to make the wine come from one vineyard. As a result, TTB is considering amending the wine labeling regulations to include definitions of the terms “Vineyard”, “Orchard”, “Farm”, and “Ranch” and to incorporate the current position for use of the term “Single Vineyard”. TTB is seeking comments on the following questions: (1) Do the terms “Vineyard”, “Orchard”, “Farm”, and “Ranch” when they appear on wine labels convey information about the product to the consumer and what information do they convey? (2) Should TTB propose to define the terms “Vineyard”, “Orchard”, “Farm”, and “Ranch” in the regulations and what should the definitions be? (3) Should TTB amend the regulations to provide a standard use for the term “Single Vineyard” and should it be the 100% standard described above or some other standard? Should TTB propose use of the same standard for the terms “Single Orchard”, “Single Farm” and “Single Ranch”? Why or why not?

Other Terms Used on Wine Labels
TTB recognizes there are numerous other terms used on wine labels and in advertisements that are not currently defined in the labeling regulations some examples are “Proprietors Blend”, “Barrel Fermented”, “Old Vine”, “Old Clone”, “Reserve”, “Bottle Aged”, “Bottle Select” and “Select Harvest”. TTB is seeking input as to which of these or additional terms, if any, should be defined in the regulations to insure consumers are provided with truthful and non-misleading information about wine. TTB is accepting comments (1) which terms currently used in wine labeling TTB should consider defining in the regulations and what the definitions should be? (2) Why or why not TTB should consider defining these terms?

Comments on all of the above topics are welcome through January 3, 2011.

As of December 29, 2010 TTB extended the comment period. The new deadline is March 4, 2011.




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